Baby, It’s Cold Outside is a Christmas song with words and music by Frank Loesser.
Loesser wrote the duet in 1944 and premiered the song with his wife, Lynn Garland, at their Navarro Hotel housewarming party, and performed it toward the end of the evening, signifying to guests that it was nearly time to end the party. Lynn considered it “their song” and was furious when Loesser sold the song to MGM.
The lyrics in this duet are designed to be heard as a conversation between two people, marked as “mouse” and “wolf” on the printed score; they have returned to the “wolf’s” home after a date, and the “mouse” decides it’s time to go home, but the “wolf” flirtatiously invites her to stay as it is late and “it’s cold outside.” Every line in the song features a statement from the “mouse” followed by a response from the “wolf“. Usually the “wolf” part is sung by a male and the “mouse” by a female.
Criticisms of the song stem from a reading of the lyrics not as the “mouse” wanting to stay and only putting up a token protest for the sake of appearance as supported by lyrics such as “The neighbors might think...”, “My father will be pacing the floor“, but instead as the “mouse” genuinely wanting to leave but being stopped by the “wolf” being coercive in his pleading with the mouse. Examples of questionable lyrics in this regard include, “I simply must go“, “The answer is no“, “I’ve got to go home“. There is also the line “Hey, what’s in this drink“, which with current interpretation could be taken to sound suspiciously like the “mouse” has been drugged. However, when the song was written it referred to someone behaving in a different manner than they expected and blaming it on the alcohol.
The song is heard on stations around Christmas time. It is a popular duet as the lyrics as conversation with interjections by the “wolf” cause some interaction between the vocalists.
Editor’s note: Though this is not my favorite version of this song, I do like the mouse/wolf role reversal that M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel do in this one. I just wish it was slowed down to original tempo a bit more, the song comes across as rushed to me, in this rendition.